Dialogues of Nodin and William - Religion #6
(PD) Rembrandt - Supper at Emmaus
Copyright ©2007-2019 - updated May 11, 2019
William: In recent days I have observed a most curious thing among the populace, one that I had not entertained much interest in before, but one that I am now with a desire to learn more about. Nodin, may I inquire of how natural laws and religion might agree or disagree?
Nodin: You have touched upon a difficult topic William, for often is it that a man will hold onto one religion while denying another, and within his choices are personal rationales, that to the man himself may indeed appear very logical and correct, and anything that you or I might say is likely to be received as an insult by the man who holds a system of reasoning that is not compatible with our own. Where our logic is based upon Nature and its creative laws, a system of laws that all men ought to agree upon, some men base their logic upon the ideas written within books, and wheresoever the books' ideas conflict with other books, there will be strife because of the conflict of logic. Always it is imperative that we must respect and honor another man's choices, for although the man might be mistaken in his logic, or us ours, still there is even less logic in our becoming an aggressor that attacks an individual's personal choices. As long as the man is striving to achieve higher states of ethics and morals, it is not our affair to intrude, but rather we ought to find the value in the man's behavior, and to become his friend in supporting his quest for self-betterment. Only when a man's behavior becomes that of aggression towards us, are we then positioned within the right and obligation to denounce his deeds and to defend our own.
William: Aggression, it has appeared to me, has at times been a behavior of some individuals, particularly among individuals of differing ideologies. I have been told, perhaps more as rumors and gossip than learned observations, that religions themselves tend to promote and instigate violence and aggression. Has this been a just observation by the people, or has there instead been another explanation for the aggression sometimes found among the religious?
Nodin: To my knowledge, all coherent religions teach peace and patience with our fellow man. I, of course, cannot speak for anyone else but myself, but if I were pressed for my best speculation, it appears that the violence and aggression found within some religions has originated from violently aggressive souls, whom themselves would be violent and aggressive regardless of what ideology the individuals might profess adherence to. It is no coherent ideology's fault that any man might be violent. Violence is, as all things else, an individual's own choice, and no one else's. Neither religion, nor ideology of any form, can be the origin of a man's choice in behavior.
William: Ah, yes, I remember our discussion about the origins of words, and I trust that you are correct, that a man's behavior still remains of his own volition, for the sequencing of events does demand that the choice of behavior exists before there can be the choice of committing a deed allegedly taught by a religion.
Nodin: William, I ask you to remember also our discussion about a natural law, that of observation, and how it is a necessity to observe before forming a hypothesis. Can a religion be known without observation?
William: According to the many scholars, yes, all religions and ideologies can be perfectly known through the act of reading the texts of religions and ideologies. In my mind are thoughts of William James, who was a leading university professor of philosophies and religion, and though he had not applied firsthand observation to his studies, he is renown to have been an expert in the fields.
Nodin: Observe the children outside, playing a game of ball. Some of the children may, as adults, become professional ball players who are paid a wage to play the ball game for an audience. I myself have never played the game, and I ask you, is it possible for me to become a professional ball player solely by my reading a book about the game?
William: Oh of course not Nodin, for a person must actually play the game, and the person must become among the country's most skilled players before the individual is qualified to play professionally. Until an individual has played the ball game, he cannot understand what it is like to play the game of ball, nor can he become proficient at the game.
Nodin: So then, if I cannot become a professional ball player, nor even a competent ball player, by reading a book, then, as you alluded to William James, I can still become a leading expert about the ball game through the reading of books? How is it possible for me to be an expert at a thing that I have never done? Who is the better expert, the professional player, or the person who has only read a book about the game?
William: I see what you are pointing to Nodin, that it is impossible for an individual to become an expert of a topic that requires personal involvement. The reading of books cannot instill within a man the understanding of the nature of an activity, nor its physical demands.
Nodin: Then this man, William James, was he an expert of philosophies and religions if he had not observed philosophies and religions firsthand?
William: According to the principle of firsthand observation, no, he would not be deemed to have been qualified to speak on the topics. But I ask, is there not a difference between scholastic expertise and professional expertise? Might it be possible to be expert at teaching a topic, while not being personally expert in the topic?
Nodin: I perceive that you are wrestling with a question that you already have the answer for, but the answer has created a discomforting conflict of logic, that on one side exists the logical necessity for firsthand observation in all things, and on the other side is the belief-based acceptance of the methodologies of socially-engineered education. The two sides conflict with the other, they can never be compatible as they currently stand, and a person must choose for himself which side that the person will accept and adhere to; the logic of firsthand observation, or the illogical acceptance of deeming inexperienced individuals as experts.
William: True Nodin, it is not a simple matter to choose logic at the expense of losing a hardened acceptance of social education. I held much faith in the methodologies and personages of public education, but now, my mind and heart must decide which should be held most dear, the logic that can be verified by Nature to be true, or for me to continue holding-fast the acceptance of public education. It hurts me inside, the pangs of choosing do not allow me an easy choice.
Nodin: Likewise is religion, for there are individuals who placed much trust in the established system and methodologies, and yet it is within such systems that the experts are sometimes not expert at all, but rather they are as the scholars you spoke of, who read books and then profess themselves masters. Observe your inward discomfort, of only having to choose between Nature-based logic and organized public education. Imagine the pangs that a religious person might feel when presented with the choice to choose between logic and his steadfast religious faith.
William: I now understand what you implied about aggression, for surely there must exist much pain and sorrow for the religious person whose faith has been challenged.
Nodin: Aggression is illogical, always, for the behavior does not mirror the creative nature of Nature, but you are also correct William, that the harm inflicted upon others is one of the results of aggression.
William: I apologize Nodin, for I have inadvertently directed the topic away from my original questions about religion. Returning to my previous thoughts, it appears to me that I cannot learn of religions through reading, nor even through discussion, but rather I can only learn of religions through my own personal firsthand experience of being religious. Is this correct?
Nodin: Yes William, your interpretation is correct, that to know what a religion is, an individual must observe the religion within their own lives, to live-out the ideals of the religion, and to not feign the knowledge of a religion through the reading and speaking of words.
William: But Nodin, no man is perfect, and so, rationally, no man can be perfect in their religion, which to me appears to imply that we cannot know all there is to know about any religion.
Nodin: It is an axiom, that nothing can be known in its entirety except the very act of knowing, but you appear to have missed the point. Religions and non-western philosophies, as taught by the masters, are not things to mirror, as if the words of canon were the sole objects to memorize. There is nothing to learn! There is nothing to follow! There are only things to become! The Buddha's philosophy was in the teachings to become enlightened; he did not teach to memorize the words written by enlightened individuals. No one is a buddha until after they have mastered the enlightenment, and at which point, the individual renounces the very name. Similar is with Christianity, that an individual becomes the desired thing, whether it be love or compassion, and upon the mastery of each 'becoming', the individual has climbed the ladder rungs of religious law, and stepping off above the top law rung, the master is no longer supported by the law, the master is within the state of lawlessness, he has become the law itself without the reliance or subjugation of any law.
William: What you have told me Nodin, is difficult for me to understand, for I have not before heard religion spoken of like what you have said.
Nodin: People talk about their religions, the people talk about their philosophies, the people talk about their politics, the people talk about the environment, and everywhere we look, we find people talking, but what we do not see are people living-out the ideals of which the people profess to believe in. People claim they want justice throughout the world, and yet the individuals behave unjustly themselves through acts of selfishness, through greed, of grasping for their own personal material wealth at the expense and suffering of all other life on the planet, and the people fully expect you and I to be so numb of mind that we would not recognize the hypocrisy of the people's behavior. Foolish it is, that the world's governments have always behaved in opposition to human life, and yet the subjects of each state continue waiting for the very same governments to better the world. Betterment does not come from without, it comes from within, it comes from the living-out of one's ideals, it comes from the firsthand experience, it is validated through firsthand observation, and that is what, in effect, was taught by the masters of religions. To better the world, first the individual must better himself, and not merely through the imagination derived from reading a book, nor by professing one's belief with words, but rather by becoming the very incarnation of the ideal itself. If a person believes love is an honorable thing, then the person must become love itself, else he remains a hypocrite. If a person believes in a religion, then he must become the teachings of the religion, not merely follow the teachings, else he remains a hypocrite. None of the individuals who participated in, or in any other fashion supported the violence of religious intolerance, were themselves honorable members of the religions they falsely claimed adherence to. It is quite impossible for an individual to become love, peace, patience, and righteousness, the very goals of Christianity, if the person can find reason to hate his neighbor or to harm Nature. People tend to choose to become members of ideologies, as if being a member of any organization might change the world or the person, but in Nature, Reality, man must change himself on the inside, for no quantity of white-washing the outside can cover the stench of a dark heart. No William, though you may have seen thousands of people who proclaim themselves to be Christian or Buddhist, you may have never observed a doer of Christ's or Buddha's teachings, and even if you had, it remains unlikely that you would have recognized the individuals for what they are.
William: But what your words point to Nodin, such a degree of mastery would require many years of dedication for an individual to master a religion, and thus learn of the religion's nature. Surely it cannot be expected of anyone to invest such a vast quantity of their lives to such a task, merely to learn of a religion.
Nodin: You are correct, it does require years of unwavering dedication to master the topic to the best of one's ability, but please answer me this, why does the necessity of dedication appear unreasonable?
William: Surely an individual can learn a sufficient quantity of knowledge in a short time, knowledge enough to hold a useful concept about a religion, without having to actually master the religion.
Nodin: Ah, so then, I can master the children's game of ball within a short time.
William: But that is different Nodin; to master a sport requires a dozen years or more of continuous practice.
Nodin: What could possibly be difficult about tossing a child's ball back and forth? Look with me at the children; does not the observation tell us that even a two year old child can adequately play the game? Are you saying that a two year old child's play is more difficult than the mastering of a religion? Think William, think it through, associate the ball game's requirement of practice, and recognize that all worthy goals require years of dedication and effort.
William: Very well Nodin, I succumb to the logic that all masteries require lengthy practice, but surely I can learn of the nature of religions within a short period of observing the religious individuals, as we are currently observing the children playing ball.
Nodin: I have never felt the pain of being hit with the ball, nor have I felt the soreness of muscles or the joy of victory of scoring within a ball game. How is it possible for me to understand the pains and joys of a thing I have never experienced? As no male can know the pain of a female giving birth, so likewise can no man know the sufferings and joys of religion without the man becoming its master. Religions are not about observing what is external to the self, but rather of becoming the thing inwardly, and observing it through the very most intimate nature of being the thing observed. Knowing about honesty is not enough, a person must be honest, and similar is religion, a person must become the thing.
William: Very well, I must resign myself to admitting that I can never know what religion is without my becoming religious, and it is an unfortunate thing, for I do desire to possess the knowledge, but I do not have the desire to invest the time and effort to become a thing that I do not know the nature of.
Nodin: It is a personal choice William, and never can religion or its beauties arrive through force, for the choice must arise from within the man, for him to desire of himself the correctness of honest thought and honest behavior.
William: But how can I know what is correct thought and behavior?
Nodin: Have you no recollection of the logic within Nature?
William: Yes, indeed do I recall all that I have read and what we have talked about, but natural logic is what can be verified to be true, and it existed prior to all religions, and therefore cannot be a creation of a religion or any other ideology.
Nodin: My smile for you William is one of happiness and patience, for I know that you know the answer, but you have not yet connected the thoughts. Answer me this, which existed first, creation or the laws that created creation?
William: The laws of course, else creation would not have formed.
Nodin: Are the laws built into creation?
William: Yes, I do conclude that the laws remain a part of creation, else creation would not remain formed.
Nodin: Are honesty and fairness proper behaviors in Nature?
William: Why of course Nodin, you and I know very well that accuracy is paramount for creation to exist and to continue existing.
Nodin: Then answer me one last thing; what difference do you find between our view of creation and its laws, and the religious view of creation and its laws? What difference is there between our firsthand observation, and the firsthand observation of buddhas? Aside from the name of the creator, is there any major difference? There are distinct differences of experience between the emotional and psychological results of an atheist's sensation of belief and that of a theist's sensation of belief. The atheist is mistaken in his belief that a theist shares a similar mental and spiritual sensation of belief as the atheist, as is a theist mistaken that an atheist shares a similar mental sensation as the theist, and only after an individual has mastered an ideology will that individual be capable of discovering the sensation of belief in the ideology's mind-set. An individual with an average intelligence can never know what it is like to think with a high intelligence, and neither can an atheist humanist ever know what it is like to think as a buddha. When you have experienced the answers to the questions firsthand, then come and speak with me more about the topic, for only then will you understand this thing called 'religion'.
William: Please allow me one further question for the moment. If to understand a religion requires that the religion must be experienced firsthand, as you and I both now agree, then what about the disbelief in religions that the atheists and skeptics proclaim? Is that not a fallacy of logic for anyone to claim a religion false if the person has not yet mastered the religion, and therefore the person does not know what the religion is?
Nodin: Excellent, you are looking at both sides of an argument, and you have recognized the error in both. You are correct, that the atheist and skeptic have no logical ground to base their beliefs. The religious man, even if he is unlearned and in much error relative to his religion's teachings, still he holds the higher logic of attempting to acquire personal firsthand experience. The skeptic chooses no effort, but rather he lazily chooses to simply deny religions without evidence.
William: Ah, Nodin, we must speak of this more, for I have been told by skeptics that they obey their laws of what they term the "scientific method" which requires the individual to observe, theorize, experiment, and then draw conclusions. The skeptic then, is he not guilty of disobeying his own laws when he denies religion without observing, experimentation, and evidence?
Nodin: You a very correct William, no man is above the natural law of observation. Even if a man professes with his mouth his belief in a deification of science, still the man behaves as a hypocrite and with pseudo-science when he proclaims a thing wrong without his first performing the scientific method ritual. Not only has the man refused to gather evidence about religious laws, he has also refused to follow his own laws.
William: It appears to me then, at the moment at least, that skepticism is no less faith-based as any religion.
Nodin: I agree. Religiosity is religiosity, regardless of what any man might claim otherwise.